By Michelle Burawski
Those of us who are animal lovers would find it very difficult to imagine a community where there are hundreds of unwanted animals literally abandoned like trash at dumpsters and in the streets, simply because there are no shelters or animal welfare services whatsoever!
One such community is in Burke County, Georgia, a mostly rural area with a population of about 23,000 people. The county is the size of Rhode Island. Concerned residents and animal rescuers have pleaded with the county commissioners, the decision-makers in that community, for many years urging them to allocate funds for a desperately-needed shelter and animal control services, but their pleas always fall on deaf ears! It is very well known and visible in that community that unwanted animals (dogs, cats, puppies, and kittens), are abandoned daily, struggling to survive!
Ironically, that community refers to itself as the “Bird Dog Capital of the World,” and even has a cemetery for bird dogs. However, many residents say it is more like the “Stray Dog Capital of the World.”
Old Fella Animal Rescue, a 501(c)(3) non-profit, one of only two in that community, has a handful of very dedicated volunteers who have taken in hundreds of abandoned dogs and puppies. (No rescue group exists for cats; however, people often leave food for them). Old Fella, founded in 2008, provides veterinary care and places the dogs in foster homes. When ready for adoption, volunteers arrange transportation (with Puppy Pipeline of Georgia, Inc.), to a wonderful shelter in Salem, Massachusetts called Northeast Animal Shelter. This particular shelter takes in all of the animals that are rescued by Old Fella! http://www.northeastanimalshelter.org/
Donations and local foster homes are always needed. Although Old Fella does receive a small grant from the county for their spay and neuter program, it is often a struggle to keep their rescue going.
Jimmie Jenkins, a retired teacher and volunteer liaison for Old Fella, participated in rescuing animals in New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina. Jenkins said, “I have heard and seen a lot, but volunteering with Old Fella was certainly an eye opener. In some respects, this situation is worse than New Orleans after Katrina! I know that’s hard to believe, but when you get call after call about animals inside or around a dumpster, it just blows you away! Just to be a part of that kind of rescue is a feeling like no
Part of Jenkins’ role is to handle donations, provide information about the spay and neuter vouchers program, take cruelty calls, and along with other volunteers, arrange for dog food to be delivered to pet owners who fall on hard times.
One dog that Old Fella rescued from a dumpster in 2009, appropriately named Bingo, turned out to be their 2000th rescue, and he found a loving home up north! Since then, Old Fella has rescued countless more, and there seems to be no end of animals that need saving!
“The most rewarding thing about rescuing animals is seeing them get their forever families and knowing the suffering has ended," said volunteer Margie Riggs.
So while residents wait anxiously for the county to provide animal welfare services, saving the animals is left up to rescue groups like Old Fella, as well as kind-hearted souls who cannot bear to do nothing.
For more information or to donate: http://www.oldfella.org/ To contact Ms. Jenkins via e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org. A GoFundMe account for the rescue groups can be found at this link:
There is currently petition created by South Carolina resident and animal advocate, Lisa Floyd. The petition, on www.change.org urges Burke County Commissioners to step up and approve funding for a shelter and animal control services. Please sign and share!
Finally, please visit our Facebook page, created for the cause, at the link below:
https://www.facebook.com/Animaldumpburkecoga. A GoFundMe account for the rescue groups is available there.
Michelle Burawski is a Georgia-based writer and animal lover.